The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States has shot down in flames any claims that the lycopene found in tomatoes has cancer-preventing properties.
The FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, says there is no credible evidence that intake of lycopene, the pigment that gives tomatoes their bright red color, cuts the risk of any type of cancer.
Dr. Claudine Kavanaugh and colleagues have published a report which states quite categorically that "no credible evidence" exists that tomatoes prevent lung, colorectal, breast, cervical or uterine cancers and only "very limited evidence" that tomatoes can reduce the risk of prostate, ovarian, gastric and pancreatic cancer.
The FDA was prompted to review the data on tomatoes and lycopene after a coalition of tomato product and supplement makers requested permission to make qualified claims that their products prevented cancer.
This involved the federal agency in an evaluation of 145 studies of lycopene, tomato, or tomato product intake and cancer risk in order to arrive at a valid conclusion.
Lycopene, is an anti-oxidant that gives tomatoes their red colour and anti-oxidants are an important part of the diet which are thought to work against cells that could become cancerous.
Other experts beg to differ and say that tomatoes and lycopene could be helpful in preventing more advanced-stage cancer, but may have no effect on the earlier-stage, and more possibly benign, disease identified by PSA tests.
The essential message however remains that fruit and vegetables are healthy foods to eat with many health giving benefits.
The study is published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.